This is a question sure to frequent the minds of parents who have a child enrolled in Montessori school, and many others too, because the traditional way of learning has been so ingrained into our heads.
If your child rarely comes home with worksheets, gradebooks, textbooks, and traditional adult-centered rule-based homework, you are naturally led to wonder what your child is even up to at Montessori school.
Is he even learning anything of importance or just frolicking his time away?
If it is called a Montessori “school”, surely there must be some educational activities going on?
Where is the proof that your child learnt anything or created anything worthwhile during his time at school? Where is the “work” he has done?
It is no surprise that this question arises, or even where it comes from. We are so wont to seeing tangible evidence of learning, of things which are measurable and proudly displayable on our home walls, that we forget about a greater learning – a learning that is not just seen on paper, but touched with the hands, felt with the heart, and remembered for a lifetime.
So here comes a succinct answer to this oft-asked question.
Not all learning can be put on paper
When your child is playing with colorful, 3-dimensional, movable alphabets and using them to form words and sentences, he is absorbing a world of words into his mind. But, when he comes home at the end of the day, there is no proof that he wrote those things, because he learnt them through a hands-on experience. Can you put that learning on paper?
When your child is building a pink tower for days on end, stacking those blocks in order, practically learning mathematical skills like measurement and comparison, learning about order and balance, and fine-tuning his motor skills, can that kind of learning be put on paper either?
When your child is solving puzzles, learning math with beads on a colorful abacus, binomial cubes, and checkerboards, he is visually learning concepts like the decimal system and even ones as tough as multiplication, area, and volume. He is learning how these phenomena occur in real life, by building physical structures instead of abstractly rote learning written formulas and not being able to see what they practically mean and where they originated from. That isn’t a type of learning that can be contained in a folder either.
When your child is learning to do daily routine tasks like washing, mopping, cleaning the windows, watering plants, pouring and scooping, getting dressed, buttoning their shirt, tying shoelaces, and brushing hair, you see that kind of learning emanate from how well-focused, agile, and independent they become around the house and in their daily chores.
That kind of learning is for a lifetime – it instills responsibility, helpfulness, and an emotional intelligence which doesn’t come from only tracing patterns on paper and solving worksheets.
The list goes on, with the multitude of hands-on and experiential activities that a child does at Montessori school.
So, do not be surprised if your child does not bring home a written worksheet every day. The kind of learning he brings is beyond that – a kind that can’t be put on paper!
You may not be able to see it yet, but it is there, and putting it on paper will come easier to your child when the time comes.
Why worksheets and homework are minimal in a Montessori environment
Although your child may bring home some of his creations occasionally, he will rarely bring home conventional worksheets or step-by-step guided work.
This is because traditional textbooks and worksheets can be too limiting. They do not fit in well with the Montessori philosophy of learning.
A small child, from the age of 0-6, should not be made to conform to a strict path, because this can stifle his creativity and independence in a damaging way. The child deserves freedom – which is not found in the expectation of a specific output, but in creating himself.
“We must help the child to act for himself, will for himself, think for himself; this is the art of those who aspire to serve the spirit.” ~ Maria Montessori, the founder of the Montessori philosophy of education.
“We cannot know the consequences of suppressing a child’s spontaneity when he is just beginning to be active. We may even suffocate life itself. That humanity which is revealed in all its’ intellectual splendor during the sweet and tender age of childhood should be respected with a kind of religious veneration.” ~ Maria Montessori
The child shouldn’t be encouraged to do, but to create, out of his own mind and free will.
Worksheets are mostly adult-centered. They leave no room for creativity and tend to judge a certain outcome as right or wrong. A child is made to correct his mistakes through the lens of an adult, which puts him under criticism of others, instead of a self-critical, logical control of error whereby a child learns through self-correction and trial-and-error based problem solving.
Instead of only seeing things written on paper, they should be brought to life in a form which the child can see, feel, and understand.
These physical creations with 3-dimensional toys represent a child’s “work”, but the parent is not there to see it. And so, naturally, that is where the question arises: Why doesn’t my child bring anything home from Montessori school?
We hope that this answered that question for the most part.
You will keep track of your child’s progress through the teacher’s feedback and your own observation of them at home. The only homework a child is expected to do at this early age, is an extension of what he does at school: sensorial learning. He should be engaged in family time and constructive daily activities around the home, not bound to a table and chair.
The aim of this education is not to dictate a child, but to promote self-discovery. He will learn skills that prepare him not “for school, but for life.” (Maria Montessori)
The freedom in a Montessori environment is not without bounds of course, but it is guided only as much as it should be. The child must fully enjoy and be immersed in the process of learning, and develop a love for it, which can only be fueled if learning is made fun and not rule-bound.
So, trust in your child, and observe his growth through a lens which sees beyond tangible things.
Watch him grow at life.